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What Makes Jade Special

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George Harlow

Jade is a very special rock. It has some really unique properties. People throughout history and in different parts of the world thought so, too.


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scrapbook page with pictures of jade in regular light, and with a light source pressed against it to show translucency
4 samples of jade in various colors with light sources emanating through

more translucent jade

The translucency of jade jewelry affects its value. The more translucent jade is, the higher its cost. They can be mesmerizing to look at.

chunk of opaque jade which no light can emanate through

opaque jade

Not all jade is translucent, like this one. When light can't pass through, it's called opaque.

piece of jade in regular light, and again with flashlight pressed against it so one can see translucency

light can pass through jade

This piece of jade may look like an ordinary rock, but let me show you a special trick with a flashlight... Look! You can see light right through it. This piece of jade is translucent. This happens when its tight network of grains does not scatter light. Instead, light is able to pass through.

Image Credits:

Jade: courtesy of AMNH, Denis Finnin; George Harlow: courtesy of AMNH, Roderick Mickens